Sitting by the fountain in Altamira, Caracas, Venezuela, I remember watching over the children we were working with and thinking to myself, how did we get here?
They were four boys and two girls, no more than nine years old, living in the streets of one of the most dangerous cities in South America.
Those were some of the most challenging days of my life. It seemed that no matter what we did, how many times we brought family members together, separation, still happened.
Our ONG (non-governmental organization) prohibited us from bringing children into our houses or giving them money. Instead, our job was to help them contact established local platforms that aided families and children in abandonment circumstances.
Most of the places offering help, some privately own, and others ran by the goverment, didn’t have the capacity, means, or programs to provide a continuous source of relief and guidance. They lacked staff, connections with local sources, or government funding. So it felt, most of the time as if our work wasn’t making a dent in the existing situation.
Under those circumstances, feeling that we had to act independently, I broke many of the regulations we were supposed to follow. For example, I took some of these children when they were sick into local hospitals without their proper identification. I contacted restaurants and made sure there was food always available for these children. Often, some of us took children into our homes during rainy nights, or when they had high fevers, or when gang members were drunk and acted dangerously in the areas around the metro stations where children used to spend their nights.
At this moment, all over the world, more than one hundred million children are living in the streets.
These children are exposed to malnutrition, sex abuse, addictions, crime, unsanitary conditions, and drug-related crimes. The negative impact on these children’s physiological, psychological, cultural, and economic development keeps increasing. Meanwhile, the world moves towards more spending on better commodities only for those who can afford it.
I know it seems out of our hands, but every significant change began as a simple idea, followed by its corresponding action. Therefore, today I want to talk about intention and how powerful the desire to serve is.
The world needs more social workers willing to get their hands dirty. I don’t want you to change your career, but I hope from this article that you find the power behind service.
We have grown used to our bubbles of safety. Binge-watching TV shows where life cannot be touched and felt. We spend days attached to our devices, somewhat disconnected from local issues and even from the well-being of family members underneath our roof.
When we ask someone if they need help, we often hear the answer of “no, I am fine, thank you.” And we love thinking that we at least asked. But what if you try, from now on, to service someone without asking if that service is needed?
For this reason, today, I want you to look around for a friend, a brother or sister, a grandparent, or whomever you come across. I want you to see what they are doing and help them without asking.
- If it is grandma cooking, go by her and clean the dishes.
- If it is an uncle fixing his car, move the tools a little closer to him.
- If it is your sister doing her homework, bring her a glass of water.
- If your mom is cleaning the house, help her put things in their place.
- If it is an old lady crossing the streets or carrying her groceries, help her.
- Find someone and help them without asking.
Leave your phone away while you do these services. Try to do as many as you can daily. Keep account of everyone you help and what you did for them, not to use as leverage to get a new PlayStation, but as your service diary.
Do this until you start seeing people doing things for you without you asking. That is the moment when it all starts to make sense when the interchange of your actions changes your life forever.
The power of service can destroy our bubbles, and it brings us closer to the people we have around us.
It conquers masks, expectations, hate, racism, and most of the emotional discrepancies destroying human relationships these days.
Horace Mann said it very clearly: “Be afraid to die until you have scored some victory for humanity.” I love to believe that we are capable of being the change we want to see. That the solution to many of society’s issues is in our hands, and that by shifting our attention a little bit, we can all achieve a new stage for ourselves and others.
What better way to achieve this change than through service and acts of kindness?
Start today. Turn your devices off and help someone.
Life will grant you all you want if only you could do unto others what you wish done unto you!